Ocon’s pit lane scare “like a scene from Group B rallying days”

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Alpine’s trackside operations director Alan Permane described the team’s shock at finding the pit lane entrance blocked by people when Esteban Ocon came in to make his pit stop during Sunday’s race.

However he believes the FIA can prevent a repeat of similar situations in the future without much difficulty.

Ocon came in to make his mandatory pit stop on the final lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. However he discovered a crowd of people standing in the fast lane of the pits when he arrived. Following an investigation, the FIA stewards confirmed members of the media and other personnel had been allowed to stand in the area earlier than they should have been as the organisers began setting up the parc ferme area.

“Our chief mechanic just came on the intercom and said ‘there’s people in the pit lane’,” Permane recalled. “Of course Esteban at that point he’s going 80kph, don’t forget, so he can stop the car pretty quickly if he needs to. So whilst it was quite scary to look at I’m sure he was in full control and no one was in serious danger.

“But it was a bit like a scene from Group B rallying days, wasn’t it, with the sort of crowds on track parting as he got there. The biggest problem is if some weren’t watching. But as I say he’s not moving very quickly at that point.”

Crowd control was a problem in rallying in the eighties
Alex Albon had a similar experience in the Australian Grand Prix last year. Permane said the FIA should be able to prevent a repeat.

“It’s something we’ve seen before, there’s a keenness – I don’t know why the photographers are allowed there but of course I understand people want to get the shots of the cars coming into parc ferme and things like that.

“But the pit lane is still open, the race track is still live. I don’t think it’s rocket science to fix that. I think it’d be quite a simple one.”

The FIA acknowledged yesterday a “very dangerous situation” had occured and “immediate steps” will be taken ahead of this weekend’s race in Miami to review their procedures.

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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13 comments on “Ocon’s pit lane scare “like a scene from Group B rallying days””

  1. Indeed reminiscent of world rallying’s Group B days but also F1’s pit stops in the early-1990s & before without speed limits & with mechanics not wearing fire-proofs. See videos on Youtube for reference.
    Not rocket science indeed, so waiting until all remaining drivers have passed the chequered flag is a simple fix.

  2. Blame on both sides here I would say.
    The race directors should have seen well in advance that this might happen due to Ocon not having pitted through the race and the team should have pointed out to the race directors that they would be using the pits on the last lap.

    1. the team should have pointed out to the race directors that they would be using the pits on the last lap

      I strongly disagree on this point. Anyone following the race could have realised Ocon hadn’t pitted yet and, knowing he is required to by the rules, was either going to come in on the final lap or get a penalty.

      Alpine were entirely blameless, there was no need for them to give race control such a message and suggesting they should have done implies they were somehow responsible.

      Frankly, I think the report the FIA put out yesterday should have made it explicitly clear the team did nothing wrong to avoid a misunderstanding of this type.

    2. I didn’t know teams were required to tell the FIA what lap they would be pitting on! You learn something every day {sarcasm}

    3. There is blame on one side.

      Even if every car had done it’s mandatory 1 stop, the thinking should be a car could go down the pit lane at anytime during the race, even if statically unlikely.

    4. @nullapax firstly, there is the question of why the team would need to tell the race director when it was transparent that Ocon had not yet pitted and therefore would have to do so, or otherwise be disqualified from the race. There were members of the press down in the pit lane who were commenting about how they were expecting Ocon to pit on the last lap, so clearly there were quite a few in the pit lane who needed no notification from Alpine that Ocon was going to pit to anticipate that he was going to pit.

      Secondly, Ocon’s pit stop might have been planned, you can also have events where a driver may want to enter the pits for an unplanned reason – for example, a mechanical or electronic issue – which a team might not be expecting themselves, and therefore they might have very little time to react themselves. The safety protocols therefore state that the fast lane is to be assumed to be active unless instructed otherwise, and thus the blame, by definition, lies with the FIA official that did not comply with the protocols they are meant to follow.

    5. Sorry guys for not replying ( @keithcollantine and all) I missed this thread.

      It just seems to me – that if I was a Team Boss – I would think that pitting on the last lap is so rare and unexpected, that it would just make sense to give the RDirectors a heads up that we will be doing something unusual this race.

      Let’s face it.
      No one trusts those guys to do anything like a competent job these days. So rather than give them an excuse to slap me or my drivers with a penalty, I would definitely have got on the phone to warn them in advance.

      The safety aspect alone would make it a no brainer for me.

  3. Webber fan
    1st May 2023, 13:09

    An unacceptable situation. But at the same time it has been exaggerated. Ocon’s team would have warned him about the people so the chance of him using them like bowling pins was unlikely.

    1. I watched Ocon’s Driver Cam, which includes audio between Esteban and his engineer, and there wasn’t anything mentioned in regards to the people on the Pit Lane Track. So the evidence at the moment is he didn’t know about those people until he went around the corner on the Pit Lane Entrance and there they were. It isn’t the job of Esteban’s engineer to go out of the garage and look at what’s happening in the Pit Lane before he arrives, that’s the job of other people. The engineer’s job is to warn him about things happening on the Race Track. Maybe there is a need for the teams to be advised if there are unauthorised people on the Pit Lane track, but then one can argue the security people should have told those people to get off the track before the teams needed to be notified.

  4. OK – 4th article on this in under 24 hours. It was bad, peolpe will get told off – life goes on!

    1. People even!

  5. I don’t think it’s rocket science to fix that. I think it’d be quite a simple one.

    Yes, I think most people would agree, it shouldn’t take rocket science to fix this problem so it doesn’t happen again, but we will find out at the Miami Grand prix whether or not it is rocket science by the number of people wandering along the Pit Lane Track way before the end of each session.

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